Wearin’ of the Green

Individual Camouflage Tactics for hiking in the green mountains of Tennessee:

hiking

A hiker’s blessin’ fer St. Paddy’s Day:

May the trail rise up ta’ greet ya’ –

but ne’er ’cause the tree roots tripped ya’!

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Enjoy other green images where’s Ailsa’s celebrating St. Paddy’s ’round the world at Where’s My Backpack?

The Unique Path Carved for You

The paths each of us travels, both physical and spiritual, eternal or temporal, are always unique ones – becoming visual testimonies for us to share along life’s way.

The Unique Path Carved for You

 

The path I carved for you, dear child,
was often rugged, adventurous and wild.
Had it been smoothed with sand at each turn,
filled with sun, what shade would’ve prevented your burn?

And without the rain, your foot might’ve never touched mud,
but do you believe you, yourself, would’ve never found crud?
Your creek beds would have all gone dry.
At this, your life blood and spirit would have died.

Nor could I always supply you the breeze of the trees,
for you’d get too comfortable, sitting there on your knees.
Upon that breeze I sent your call
to follow a path to reach out to all.

And, yes, of course I expected you’d stray
to chart your own course, to go your own way.
But detours plenty I made to re-draw you near.
You are my creation – my child. I hold you dear.                                    

Sometimes your path may seem parched and dry.
Sometimes you’ll throw up your hands to ask why.
But if followed through, hardship is worth the bother,
to show others the way – to my living water.

© jody love 2013

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I’m throwing this into a couple of pots this week, all happening by serendipity, I suppose. (Maybe not; maybe I just like that word.) I had been wanting to put up a post of various physical paths I’ve traveled, as I reflected on some of the spiritual paths I’ve had to encounter as of late.

As it just so happened (that’s where serendipity comes in), the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge came up on Friday with the ‘Unique’ prompt. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to pen a poem to go with some of my hiking photographs regarding how unique each of our life paths becomes; so I began scribbling away in the middle of church service this past Sunday. (Don’t tell my family; I’m sure they thought I was taking sermon notes. In my defense, I’m going to offer up that I was spiritually inspired.)

As far as poetry goes, I don’t think it’s my “best” piece in terms of complexity, by any stretch of the imagination. (It’s even a little “cruddy” – a play on a word that will come across as a ‘sticky’ point to the well-versed poet.) It’s in simple quatrains with rhymes ending in simple thoughts (a point of contention for the more contemporary, stylishly disdainful, misled-in-meaning beatnik-type poet — yeah, I’ve been in my twenties too; I get it – and I still like to break rules of conventionality). But I decided it needed to be simple if it was a Father speaking to His child, trying to simplify a very complicated subject matter (the difficulty of a spiritual journey). There was so much more I wanted to try to “squeeze in,” but TMI (too much information) can be a dangerous lesson, in and of itself (at least for my simple mind).

Then, I opened up the Trifecta Writing Challenge blog on Monday afternoon to discover the prompt for this week was ‘path.’ Encounters of the Serendipitous Kind? I’ll let you decide. <cue the eerie alien music>

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Trifecta Challenge: This week’s word is:

PATH
1: a trodden way
2: a track specially constructed for a particular use
3a : course, route
b : a way of life, conduct, or thought

Please remember:
  • Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.
  • You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.
  • The word itself needs to be included in your response.
  • You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above.
  • Only one entry per writer.
  • Trifecta is open to everyone.  Please join us.
This week’s challenge is community-judged.
  • For the 12 hours following the close of the challenge, voting will be enabled on links.
  • In order to vote, return to this post where stars will appear next to each link.  To vote, simply click the star that corresponds with your favorite post.
  • You can vote for your top three favorite posts.
  • Voting is open to everyone. Encourage your friends to vote for you, if you wish, but please don’t tell them to vote on a number.  The numbering of the posts changes regularly, as authors have the ability to delete their own links at any time.
  • You have 12 hours to vote.  It’s not much time, so be diligent! We’ll send out reminders on Twitter and Facebook.

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The Conasauga River: An Accidental Adventure

Admittedly, I stumble along in life quite often.  But…Have you ever stumbled upon something absolutely marvelous, by complete accident?

Con03

For me, it’s the fairy tale of hiking. Like Belle, stumbling through the obscure forest map, lost from her original destination, having a beast of a time finding the turn-offs because the ruts in the one-lane road are bouncing the not-so-reliable-directions out of her hand (and, no, this place doesn’t exist on any GPS) — there’s just no turning back…Suddenly, out of nowhere, she spots her trailhead of destiny!

This one happened to be Conasauga Trailhead 61. Let me say, my photos don’t do the place justice! My camera’s limited capability (okay, maybe it was the operator’s limited capability) couldn’t fully capture the water’s exact beauty as it went from deep forest green to clear emeralds, teals and jades. The river also transitioned between exciting rapids, suitable for a kayaker, to calm swimming holes, one complete with the addition of a rigged wire/rope swing that I wouldn’t trust any more than a grinning politician. That – and the pair of undies snagged in a tree – were the only signs of civilization I encountered on the trail. I’m fairly certain all that will change in the summertime, but I also know the rapids won’t be as impressive once the spring rains subside.

The Conasauga River - Is this Heaven?

The Conasauga River – Is this Heaven?

The trail is an easy one to hike, with the most challenging feat being to keep your feet dry at a couple of creek crossings and mud holes. The second crossing is rather wide and does require some skill at creek rock jumping, so those who are balance-challenged should plan to un-boot – or bring a change of shoes. (Not many southeastern trails come without creek crossings – and most don’t have bridges, in case you were wondering.)

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat...

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat…

So how do you get to this accidentally magical place, you ask? The directions are quite simple…You adventurously drive around the Tennessee-Georgia border while looking for another trail you were actually searching out (from directions supplied by a deranged Eagle Scout) until you pass this old tractor in the middle of nowhere.

You thought I was kidding about the tractor, didn't you?Nope. I had to stop for a visit - 'cause I thought this tractor was sexy. :)

You thought I was kidding about the tractor, didn’t you?
Nope. I had to stop for a visit – ’cause I thought this tractor was sexy. 🙂

Then you veer right onto a one-lane, once-graveled, now deeply rutted trail that is meant to serve as a mountainous lane. If you’re acrophobic, best not to look out the window while topping the mountain ridges, wondering why there are no guard rails – better just to pray for the next several miles, as you bump along, that you don’t pass any other vehicles. You will pass three moonshine stills (but you probably won’t notice them unless someone fires a warning shot, since they’re covered in digital camo netting); you’ll continue to check your map that hasn’t done you a bit of good since you set out much earlier that day; the road will turn back into asphalt for approximately 50 feet and you’ll wonder why they even bothered (apparently they just needed to clean out their asphalt truck); you’ll then wonder if you’re going to run out of gas before you ever reach civilization; eventually you’ll convince yourself that the mountain creeks are better than civilization – and maybe you could move there and get on your moonshine neighbor’s reality TV show; and then…out of nowhere, you’ll inadvertently pass Trail No. 61. This would be a good time to back up and find a parking spot.

Conasauga Trail No. 61.You Are Here (however that happened!)

Conasauga Trail No. 61.
You Are Here (however that happened!)

Quick (and Possibly Imperative) Geography & Translation Lesson (most especially if “you ain’t from around here”)

If, on your trip, you begin to hear banjo music playing from a front porch, you’ve traveled too far east to hit this Conasauga River trail. You would be on the Chattooga River instead. The Conasauga River is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest, but don’t confuse this with the name of the Chattooga River (upon which the movie, Deliverance, was filmed). Chattahoochee is loosely translated as ‘painted rock,’ while Chattooga means ‘he has crossed the creek and come out on the other side.’ If you saw the movie, coming out on the other side takes on an entirely new meaning. Conasauga means everything from ‘sparkling water’ to ‘strong horse’ to “let’s mess with the white man and not tell him what it really means. Hey, your mama’s a Conasauga!” Now that we’ve got that all straightened out…

WELCOME TO THE CONASAUGA!

WELCOME TO THE CONASAUGA!

I’d love to share with you some of the views I stumbled across. I am serious when I say that, once you’ve traversed all the ridges in your car, the hiking is easy, being fairly even and following the river the entire way – always providing a gorgeous view. Various generations in your family could enjoy it together, if they’re reasonably steady walkers. Kayakers could also enjoy it when the water’s elevated with decent rapids because carrying your equipment back up the trail would be a breeze. (I wouldn’t be as enthusiastic to do that with my canoe – the portage part, that is.) Lastly, I’ve not forgotten you fisher-people. This river was once stocked with trout and though it’s no longer stocked, they’ve bred and are present. There are also bass, catfish and bream – and even geeky little fish that like to be studied by scientists.

So, without further ado (or probably just in addition to it), here’s my geeky slideshow for your viewing pleasure:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Happy Hiking! -jody

Revolting Reptiles or Beastly Bipeds? Which of these is the scariest?!

The Photo Challenge for Letsbewild.com this week is: Scary.

In response, I revisited a few of our family’s travel photos, thinking about what sort of things people often find to be scary in the wild outdoors. Have you thought about how you might deal with a scary find when you come face to face with one?

Whenever we’re out hiking, we know to be aware of the creepy-crawlies on the ground (copperheads, Eastern diamondbacks, and timber rattlers are prevalent in our area) as much as we know to be aware of larger mammals when we’re up in the mountains (black bear are fairly common, mountain lions much less common but existent). But, truthfully, humans create a much greater threat to these creatures, in general, than the other way around.

For your safety, it’s always best to give any of these creatures plenty of room by keeping your distance when you know they’re around. Making noise is usually the best way to warn them in advance of your presence. (Animals have keen hearing & earthbound creatures have a good sense of vibration, so shuffling through leaves occasionally and using normal conversation levels are usually sufficient). Most will be wise enough to help you keep your distance. There are the exceptions, however.

For large mammals – DO NOT try to feed them (even accidentally, by leaving your food out in the open or not well wrapped). ESPECIALLY DO NOT get near their young. Look and listen for signs of large mammals in the area. Low guttural growls are traditionally meant to be sufficient warnings to BACK OFF, but you may not want to wait until you’re close enough to get an ear-full of saliva. Here are a couple of other prominent signs that “bear” good warnings:

Thar's a Bar over Thar! Whar?!

Thar’s a Bar over Thar! Whar?!
Nah! That’s Bigfoot Fur, Silly!

  • The park warnings that are posted in our state recommend that, in a worse case scenario, if confronted by a black bear (I cannot tell you what they say about other kinds – I’m thinking this is not good advice for a grizzly) – make yourself as large and obnoxiously noisy as possible. Let the bear feel threatened by you, believing you will fight it – and in a really worse-case scenario, fight it if it attacks you until you can do no more. DO NOT run from it with your back turned to it and DO NOT lie down and be still, in hopes it will go away. Likely, that will encourage it to perceive you as prey. (I know. This advice is easier said than done, right? Right. Try NOT to end up face to face with one. Wide berths generally work best – as does leaving your food behind if that was the initial attraction.)
  • In case you’re tempted to bring a weapon for protection, guns are not allowed in many state parks – but dogs generally are (as are large sticks…yes, and pocket knives, but best to stick to whittling wood with those – okay, maybe a point on the end of that large stick if you’re pretending to be a survivalist – but don’t trip!). Dogs typically make lots of noise when another animal approaches – lots of vicious noise when they feel their “pack” is being threatened. Most dogs will readily face down a bear rather than run away; so this is a good hiking companion to have in potential ‘large mammal’ wildlife areas. (Hint: When not in a populated area, I unleash, as my dog likes to survey the area for any perceived signs of danger, doing it in a radius fashion – okay, that and he’s just nosy…but he makes lots of noise doing it!)

For snakes – you’ll most often catch a glimpse of a tail as they quickly slither out from under your foot and in an opposite direction from you. (I can’t think of a time a snake was ever slithering towards my boys when they were running to catch it!) Unlike a mama bear with cubs, that’s generally a snake’s preferred response to your presence in its territory – to get away from you and into hiding! (They try to slither especially fast to get away from dogs & curious boys under the age of 15 or so – even if the effort is futile.)

  • If they feel they can’t escape, they still like to coil and make ample noise before they strike as a warning (rattlers will rattle; many other snakes will often hiss; often, an initial strike will be half-hearted – as if to say “back off or else”). Unfortunately, snakes don’t understand if you’re not paying attention by not looking down in their direction or not hearing their warning to heed it; so if you didn’t notice the warning, you might be walking away with some venom – usually in your leg (unless you were down on your knees looking curiously into a hole with one eye – or, more commonly, climbing rocks on a sunny day and reaching above you without noticing you’ve just disturbed a reptilian suntanning session).
  • A little good news: Even a poisonous strike may not have venom attached. Some sources say 25% of pit viper bites are “dry strikes” (or low venom strikes – as they like to conserve their big doses for hunting, rather than defensive maneuvers). Treat all unidentified bites as though they contain venom, however – particularly if the snake is angry enough to strike multiple times (a good sign that he may have “loaded up”!)
  • As a general rule, snakes will not strike any greater than half their body length (except in cartoons, where the law of gravity can more easily be defied); so wearing boots and heavy pants (if you are standing upright at the time of your encounter) can serve as some of your best protection against an injected dose of venom (or at least a full dose). Admittedly, Eastern diamondbacks have been known to penetrate boots with their impressive fangs, but despite their size (or maybe because of it), they tend to be more docile – (hint: when left alone!).
  • Also, let’s back up just a minute (yeah, from the snake & in our conversation). In most areas of the world where there are snakes, the proportion of non-venomous to venomous is still phenomenally great – so even if you’re bitten, there may be no poisonous venom involved. We’re just speaking worse-case scenarios here. It’s always helpful to know your snake types. In our southeastern Appalachian area, triangular heads and elliptical (cat) eyes are the best indicators of the venomous type – more than colors, patterns, or body types. (For instance, corn snakes get mistaken for copperheads quite often based on color and pattern only.)
w-hiss-per

This fella’s w-hiss-pering, “But I’ve got a triangular head and elliptical eyes…”
To this, I throw on my redneck cap & say, “You ain’t from around here, are ya’?”

  • Important Tip: Killing a non-poisonous snake is like shooting yourself in the foot. I’m not promoting the killing of any creatures (except for the time the baby copperhead was coiled up in my house, staring eye to eye at my little own ones – yes, I felt bad for him, but not bad enough to keep me from rapidly disposing of the threat – and then trying to track down his mama who had the audacity to have baby copperheads in MY territory! Where’s Rikki Tikki Tavi when you need him?). Conversely, a large, non-poisonous snake (even one who acts threatening) is a good thing to have around – many of them will kill & eat poisonous snakes. (Yes, reptilian cannibalism still exists around the world.)
This is a corn snake. Admittedly, it's a little difficult to identify its rounded head and beady eyes while it's on the move like this. But we made sure before picking it up. ;-)

This is a corn snake – NOT a copperhead – being shown some warm-blooded love. Admittedly, it’s a little difficult to identify its rounded head and beady eyes while it’s on the move like this. But we made sure of these things before picking it up. 😉

If bitten by one of the poisonous vipers I’ve mentioned (mambas probably shouldn’t be included in these recommendations), here are some suggestions from the experts to follow:

  • Best to let the snake go rather than spending time trying to catch it. Time is better spent dialing 9-1-1. (Take a picture with your cell phone if you think someone else needs to identify it because you couldn’t.)
  • Lie down, stay calm, and keep the bitten limb immobilized. (I know. Easier said than done – especially the calm part – but an adrenaline-freak out really isn’t going to help in this situation…unless you’re wanting venom to rush more quickly through your body.)
  • If you’re going to have to walk out, lie there for about 20 minutes first to let the venom localize. (I know. Easier said than done.)
  • Apply a light constricting band about 2 inches above and below the bite. Yep, somebody’s shirt is probably getting ripped (which is another reason why you don’t wear expensive clothing to impress the wildlife when you are hiking). This is NOT a tourniquet. You DO NOT want to shut off blood flow to your limb. This is to compress your lymphatic system only. Check for pulses periodically to assure these bands aren’t too tight. (Blue toes are a sure sign they need to be loosened up!)
  • Wash out the bite if you have soap and water available. (No, please don’t have someone cut it open & suck the venom out. Only Hollywood would do that. Think about that a minute. Hollywood’s the one who also puts out Reality TV, remember?)
  • DO NOT use an ice pack over the area. Recent studies show that ice packs may actually be worse.
  • Also, while you’re lying there, make use of your time by removing any restrictive items (rings, bracelets, etc), as there’s probably going to be some swelling involved!
  • Calmly walk out when it’s time (pretend it’s a fire drill and you really didn’t want to be bothered with the disruption). Get medical help immediately. If no medical transport is available, call ahead to the nearest hospital and alert them of your bite, so antivenin can be available.

For today’s REPTILIAN RUSH of photos, remember that most reptiles prefer FLIGHT OVER FIGHT – unless they’re much larger than you and hungry. (Best to avoid their feeding grounds in such cases.) Nevertheless, people still win most of the fights, as evidenced by the fact that you don’t see many reptiles carrying purses or wearing boots made of human flesh.

Here’s a photo of a “Red Rock” in Red Rocks Park, Colorado:

Red Rock

And here’s a photo of the self-assigned “Guardian of the Red Rock”, trying to look quite intimidating. Impressively scary, huh, even without our ability to hear the added sound effects?

Guardian of Red Rock

Now, here’s the “Guardian of the Red Rock” being transported to a safer location (for him and the oncoming bus tourists). You see, this scaly-scary fella’ had placed himself in a prime spot where a curious bus-full of tourists were about to come by. Though some might have just been curious to see him, others might have felt threatened by his presence and decided his presence wasn’t really needed there – permanently. Our bipedal beast (aka ‘human’) is relocating him to a safer spot, where both he and the tourists won’t bother one another.

Teletransportation

Notice how our bipedal beast is respecting the distance of the strike zone when preparing for transport. Also notice how our guardian reptile friend is respecting it too – by not using his venomous striking motion because he still feels there’s enough ‘safe zone’ distance between the two of them. He stays prepared though – just in case. As you can see, the big, tall human is the one who looks the scariest to this little reptile who was just doing his job of blending in before the beastly bipedal beings came onto the scene.

Here’s a slightly larger version of a reptile. This guy may be Captain Hook’s ‘fiendish friend’, based on the smile on his face. (Okay, he’s actually an alligator, rather than a crocodile, as evidenced by the thick snout.)

Captain Hooks fiendish friend

This picture, taken in Florida, became somewhat of a stand-off. I’m getting a sort of Clint Eastwood vibe from him. “Step on over here, punk, and make my day!” Though this guy doesn’t have any venom, this is still his hunting ground. I’ve got to respect that. But this guy’s not big enough to eat me. Don’t worry. I still understand that he’s fast enough to be sufficient at ankle biting as an appetizer. Thus, pictures like this are better taken with some zoom potential in between.

Then there’s the granddaddy reptile of them all – a less amphibious ancestor of Mr. Alligator.

We were obviously in his hunting ground at the time of these shots – and, given a heartbeat and the chance, he would’ve all too gladly made a meal of us! Always Respect the T-Rex Reptile! He could easily wear you as a purse (dangling from his teeth, since he can’t balance the straps well on those ridiculously small front appendages)!

ancestor

If you find yourself tangling with a T-Rex, here are some good tips to remember:

  • Screaming and running (or even slithering) away would be approved measures to take.
  • If bitten, it is advisable to go ahead and panic!

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I’m participating in the online adventure travel and photography magazine LetsBeWild.com’s Wild Weekly Photo Challenge for bloggersThis week’s Challenge is: Scary!

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How God Can Equip from the Hip on a Fateful Trip

Something very curious happened this morning with my blog post. I began this entry at the end of November, but just got around to finishing it up this morning. When I went to publish my saved draft, it saved it to the originally drafted date.

So…I’ve re-blogged the link, if you’re interested…

How God Can Equip from the Hip on a Fateful Trip.

Life’s uPS & DOwns (as depicted by Foster Falls)

Life is a series of        F                                   S
                                    A                              B
                                       L                        M
                                         L                    I
                                           S               L
                                               and   C

DSC_0277

Of losses and finds,

creek

Of crossing bridges to unknown sides…

bridge

Of pondering ‘what ifs,’

pondering

Of nearing cliffs,

DSC_0270

Of skips and slips and unplanned trips;

DSC_0216

                    Of well-planned goals

trail

                                                     that get filled full of H O L E S…yet –

DSC_0268

Our feet oft resound

rocks&woods

On stray paths found

path

In our trials,  

DSC_0271

     (to our surprise!)

peek

 Where                 ‘breath-takings’                still abound.

 Foster Falls

 © 2012 jody love

 

May your climbs continue on well past when your life becomes crepuscular,

day is done

And may you become as grand as all your falls, viewed only through lenses of spectacular!

signature

Sharing my wonderful day at Foster Falls, -jody

***

In response to “Me Time” – What’s your ideal Saturday morning? Are you doing those things this morning? Why not?

Foster Falls is one depiction of how I like to spend my Saturdays, beginning in the morning and travelling through a breath-taking part of my day. Those pictures were not taken this past Saturday though – they were from the one prior – nor were they posted this past Saturday, as originally planned. As I awoke on this particular past Saturday, after a week-full of worries from colleagues over a perceived threat that began on Monday, a mid-week mass mall shooting that intensified those concerns, and then hearing the very sad & further heart-breaking news from my office on Friday afternoon of what had transpired that day at Sandy Hook Elementary (and being thankful the majority of my colleagues were already safely at home), I realized by Saturday morning that my “me time” needed to be my “He time.” As much as I enjoy it being our “we time” as I marvel at His works in nature, I spent some quiet time, instead, going to His Word. My own heart was torn, in need of healing. Less of me; more of Him. Then upon reading post after post filled with despair and searching for answers, I decided this particular Saturday morning might best be spent trying to put to pen the words I was personally applying as a balm to my own soul, as others tried to sort through it and find hope and healing. I wrote this post that morning instead, in hopes of sharing some of the hope of which I, too, was being reminded: A Mean and Less Life.

***

Related Articles:

Weekly Photo Challenge: HAppY

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

Wild Weekly Photo Challenge: Water

Wild Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture in Nature

How God Can Equip from the Hip on a Fateful Trip

The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Genesis 32:22-31

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Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is HelplessHelplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?

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Once upon a time…very early on a Friday morning (still known as night to most people) in late January, I set out on a hiking trip into the Great Smokey Mountains – up Mount LeConte, to be a little more exact.

Hanging out in the Smokies. That’s a happy me, waving hi! 🙂

I was with 3 others (my sister, a fellow youth leader, and his teenage daughter – who you see with me in the pic), each of them having the good sense to eat breakfast prior to the hike. (So my excitement had me preoccupied – that important little detail escaped me.) Although it was foggy, the weather report at the Ranger Station was good, so we headed out for an invigorating winter day-long hike.  Early on the trail (I’m guessing less than 200 feet from the trailhead), as I rushed to take the lead and forge my way up the hill, my foot slipped on a little piece of “black ice,” twisting my entire leg and pulling a hip flexor ligament.  I was unable to lift my foot to make a full step for the remainder of the hike – about 7 miles up to one of the highest points on the Appalachian Trail

 Worse yet, we hadn’t expected snow that day – and it wasn’t long before we were trekking up the mountain in 3”, 6”, 9”, 12” – up to 18” of snow by the time we neared the top.  The colder it got and the deeper the snow, the slower my shuffled gait became on the linear regression curve – according to the growing stiffness and pain in my hip.  At times, it felt as though I wasn’t even progressing.  I literally had to reach down and drag my foot by pulling my leg through the snow, though I, of course, kept saying, “No, I’m fine.”  Two of our party went on ahead of us, as I’m sure they needed to maintain their rhythm to make it up the mountain in these conditions until they could come up on places to rest and wait.  But my faithful co-youth leader and friend, Ralph (whose wife, Debbie, was smarter than us, because she opted not to go on the hike) remained faithfully and steadfastly at my side.

 Ralph was a true friend. As an avid mountain hiker, he could have easily outpaced me on a good day if I’d had a healthy hip – and his human nature may have wanted to do that. But he never once complained about the slow pace he chose to maintain with me. His big-brother mode not only encouraged me the entire way (even stopping me for a forced breakfast break with the squirrels – who must’ve come out, thinking I was a nut); but he practiced incredible patient steadfastness and threw in some great conversation to keep my mind distracted from my injury. Somewhere along the way, we started with some small talk, but then progressed to talk about those more important matters in our lives. I had been a young widow for a whopping 6 months at that time, still trying to emotionally recover from the unexpected trauma. Ralph, in contrast, had been married to Debbie for over 20 years. He openly reminisced about how they’d met, their dating years, about falling in love. Being raised by my dad, I understood what a rare occurrence it was to get to hear inside a man’s heart, and I felt privileged for the experience.

Mt LeConte Shelter
Mt LeConte Shelter on a less foggy day

 By the time we reached our intended destination – the summit, where the normally breathtaking view provided nothing more to see through our iced eyelashes that day than an ample amount of fog – we were lucky to grab a few moments in a shelter in which we all huddled to gain some caloric strength from our sandwiches. I think we finished them in about two bites, as we were being beaten and tortured, even in the shelter, by vicious winds and icy rain. It was there when we realized we were going to have to rethink our strategy to get off that mountain. (The ranger’s station dispatch thought to use the same shortcut strategy too, as a crampon-clamped, ice-encrusted party of boots attached to a well-lit search team was on its way up to assure we – and any other non-existent people who might have been “daring” – I like that word better than “foolish” – enough to go up there weren’t planning to try to brave an oncoming storm in the shelter. Seriously? Were they feeling this icy wind? Oh, yeah, it wasn’t their sanity that was being questioned.)

I can only say that, for the longest time after that hike,

I possessed a wonderfully worshipful attitude!

A view (we didn't have) of foggy darkness closing in
A view (we didn’t have) of foggy darkness closing in

In processing my experience, there was no brag in making it up Mount Le Conte, despite the odds of injury and ice.  Instead, all I could recall was my “God moment” – how my friend had waited for me and encouraged me along the way, how our hiking party planned an entire re-route  (which was a risk for all) with me in mind, and how another dear friend had been on standby and had joyfully come to our rescue at the end of another trail (based on the information we were able to give her once we received cell reception for just the small but right amount of time needed to convey it).  I had learned to walk on a hike in an entirely new sort of way a way that had to do with my survival on the one hand, and faithful friendship on the other. 

Despite any loneliness I had felt over the last several months in my life,my God-moment showed me I wasn’t alone.

I suddenly could see that this was the very relationship that God wanted to have with me – one where I utterly and completely had to rely on Him for my sustenance – His companionship, His guidance, His patience – His walk with me.

 God knew that I was at my river crossing in life – between being a widow from a heartbreaking marriage (scared – though not admitting it – of what the future held) and re-routing towards a new beginning.  On that fateful day, my hip injury slowed me down enough so that I could experience relationship in a way that I would have otherwise missed.  And that’s how, in my own hip injury experience, I think I can relate a little more to Jacob’s story at the River Jabbok – how his limp signified the irony of the blessing, in the place where he was brought closer to his reliance on God.

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Have you ever felt like you were battling God with your hurts and pains, when maybe you were being blessed with an opportunity to rely more closely on our Lord’s faithfulness?

 

Wild Weekly Photo Challenge – My Wilderness ESCAPE

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Whenever I hear the word Escape, the first thing that pops in my mind is a song by Rupert Holmes with that same name (when it’s not being referred to as ‘The Pina Colada Song, of course).

“If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain…

then write to me and escape.”

Those lines instantly evoke a sense of joyfulness and of being carefree –

a feeling we all desire.

(Or maybe they evoke in you a desire to write about your own planned escape – if so, I’d love to hear about it.)

Just like in this song, we may get to various points in our lives when we feel as if we need to plan an escape from “reality.” (Just like just then, when I wrote we because, in reality, I needed some backup and didn’t want to admit that it translated to I in that sentence.) Well, I am still betting you can relate to our escape plan.

Some days, admittedly and incredibly, I find escape in my work, simply running from one form of reality to seeking solace in another. Other days, I find my escape as I get caught up in reading a fantastically fictional story where I wish I could play the protagonist’s part. Ironically, I find that my most pleasurable times of escape, though, aren’t really when I’m trying to get away from life; but when I’m working on a life adventure of my own, either through engagement with nature and others, or engagement among my characters or the words in my mind as I write.

Throw in a little pina colada and some dancing in the rain, and I guess I’m in business.

Sometimes, our life escapades come out differently than how we’ve anticipated.

(At least mine do.)

Truthfully, without sounding dramatic or even getting into the details, I can honestly say I’ve escaped death a time or two in my life – but those instances were direct consequences of poor decisions either I made or someone else made on my behalf (or, in one instance, didn’t make in time).

That thought brings me around to my response for the Let’s Be Wild Weekly Challenge on Escape.

When I was in the Holy Land, out wandering a little myself down the Wadi Qelt in the Judean wilderness,

I had some time to think about a couple of the famous escapes associated with this place.

When the Hebrews escaped their bondage from Egypt under the leadership of their prophet, Moses, they wandered through the wilderness for 40 years, according to the Torah. As Moses stood on Mount Nebo (aka Pisgah), he looked down into the Promised Land, the area we distantly view here that includes Jericho. As I stood there, in that same place (or close to it, anyway) thinking on this, I came to the conclusion that

Sometimes we have to be patient and persistent for our escape to come to fruition.

Other times, our escape may be very different than anything we’ve planned for ourselves,

as it was with Moses.

Deuteronomy 34:1-5
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho….
Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised….I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab…but to this day no one knows where his grave is.

Another thought as I looked upon a Bedouin herd, finding grass where I might have said there was none to be had:

When it comes to making an escape, perhaps one person’s deserted path is another’s prime pasture.

I was also reminded on this pathway that I traveled, along the Wadi al Qelt was where the Story of the Good Samaritan took place in scripture. Don’t let my high elevation shot fool you here. When walking the Wadi Qelt, it becomes easy to see how readily bandits can hide in the surrounding area and surprise someone along the path unexpectedly.

Luke 10:25-37
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers…” (vs. 30).

That man was left for dead by the robbers and by two others that couldn’t be bothered to help him. But because of the least likely person that would’ve been expected to help him along the way (the Samaritan), the robbed and beaten man was cared for and escaped death.

Sometimes the people we would least expect might be the ones to assist us in making our escape.

Sometimes, like the dry places in my life, the Wadi Qelt looks a lot like death, void of much of anything living, until a little spring of life sneaks in and obscurely announces itself. That was the case with this area of green growth, boldly announcing where Herod’s aqueduct came through, supplying water for life along its path.

At other times in life, I might be moving along on high ground and can’t even fathom what surprises might await me in the deep recesses if I’ll just take time to escape to them and explore around there.

In this case, I did, and was welcomed in by priests serving lemonade and cookies. This monastery was built around an expanse of caves, one in which Elijah resided while hiding out from King Ahab and the ill-tempered Queen Jezebel. The bible story says ravens came and fed Elijah, and I’d never dispute that birds could very well have done just that. However, it’s also rumored that the cave-dwellers who lived along the sides of those ridges were called a named that translates to sound very similar to ‘raven.’

To tell you the truth, I enjoy escaping into the possibility of either of those story versions.

Here’s a modern-day look on the inside of Elijah’s cave, if you’re interested in seeing the place of his escape:

The final escape story with which I was faced during my own wilderness experience was when I stood upon the Mount of Olives, looking over the Garden of Gethsemane. This was the place where Jesus went to pray, just before he was arrested and later crucified. A portion of his prayer was, if there was any other way for salvation of the people to take place, for that cup to be taken from him. After that, he ended his prayer obediently, saying, ‘Not my will, but yours be done, Father.’

I wonder how often I’ve worked to escape from uttering those words in my life when the price wasn’t nearly so high for me?

It wasn’t until I stood above that very spot, overlooking that garden, when I came to realize the physical choice Jesus had made there. If this had been a modern-day movie, for instance, things would’ve looked very despondent for the hero; then, just before the worst possible outcome, he would have turned the other way – and escaped. By our standards, that would’ve made for the perfect ending. And let me assure you, he could’ve done just that – escape would’ve come all too easily. On one side of this garden lay Jerusalem (which you can see, now in modern-day, in the background of this photo).

But when you’re standing up on that mount, if you turn and look out to the other side, you’ll find there is an entire wilderness into which Jesus could’ve chosen to escape – the same wilderness into which Elijah escaped quite easily from King Ahad and Queen Jezebel.

Instead, Jesus chose to do his Father’s will and stay right where he was in that garden, awaiting his capture. He chose to accept the sentence for those deeds that really belong on my head. Standing there, as a Christian, I had to acknowledge in my belief and in that place that He had chosen to stay there and take a punishment to allow me to be the one to escape it.

He became my emergency escape hatch.

What better escape could I ever ask for or plan than that?

In this realization, more than anywhere on my walk,

My wilderness experience surely taught me to always look for the unexpected Escape Hatches & Doors to explore, regardless of where I am in life.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t take time to wish this same joyful and carefree escape route for you, my friends.

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Just for kicks,

I’m participating in the LetsBeWild.com Wild Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s Challenge is: Escape

Make Your Own Escape to see the winning entries here!

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What, Where, How (or maybe Who) is your Favorite Escape?

I’d love to hear about it, if you dare to share…